Thirteen may be seen as an unlucky number by some, but for Michael Allen it is the number he has craved to play all of his rugby career and he is determined to run out for new club Edinburgh Rugby at outside centre.
Having grown up in a rugby-mad family in Belfast, Allen progressed from Methodist College into the Ulster Academy and then earned a full-time contract with his hometown club. Over the past few years he turned out for the Ulster first team in the Pro12 and in Europe on a number of occasions, but could never quite force his way into the starting XV regularly.
As a result, midway through the last campaign he decided the time was right to look for a move to pastures new and Edinburgh head coach Alan Solomons was quick to snap him up on a two-year deal.
“Personally I didn’t feel I achieved enough of my goals at Ulster. I played a few times and got on a couple of Emerging Ireland tours, but I had set slightly higher goals for myself by this stage of my career,” the 24-year-old, pictured right, explained.
“I thought the best way to progress was to go and play rugby at a team that would offer me more regular opportunities to play – especially in the position where I’m most comfortable, outside centre.
“There was interest from a few clubs and I didn’t know where I was going, but Alan Solomons spoke to me and was so positive. It was so nice to hear from a coach that ‘You could do well over here – we need you. We could do with a 13’. That was a driving factor with me in coming here. I’m here primarily as a 13. If Alan needs me to play in any other position I’ll happily do it, but I want to play in the position that I think I’m best at.
“I’ve only played there a few times professionally, but every time I go out to play I’m much more confident and comfortable there as opposed to being on the wing.
“I’m not going to say no to playing anywhere, but at Ulster I played all over the place and now I want to try and establish myself at 13.”
Allen has now been with the capital club for four weeks and has been with the squad at a pre-season camp in St Andrews. With a number of young players set to step up to first-team rugby and Allen one of only three major summer signings – with Will Helu and Nasi Manu – many are unsure what to expect from Edinburgh when the season gets under way next month.
Allen, for one, is optimistic.
“In St Andrews we had a goal-setting conversation and a lot of the groups, mine included, said that top six in the Pro12 has to be a minimum goal for us because that gets you into the top European competition.
“Another group said ‘Why don’t we aim for top four?’ and it got the rest of us all thinking.
“So the mentality is we want to get into the top six, but we will strive to get top four so we can assure ourselves of playing in the highest European competition next year – and we have to believe we can do it.”
Allen is set to make his Edinburgh debut in the friendly with Romania on 21 August at the Greenyards.